Real Madrid know that only a win against Rayo Vallecano will take them back to the top of the table on Monday night, but they will do so without Karim Benzema.
The French forward has been struggling with his fitness all season and had missed the previous three matches prior to Wednesday night’s win against Celtic. Benzema came on for 26 minutes and looked sharp, but has missed training ever since.
Speaking to Marca ahead of the match against Rayo, Ancelotti confirmed he would be absent.
“Karim will not play tomorrow. The feeling he has is still not good. He trained well on Friday but then he struggled more after that, so he won’t play tomorrow.”
The Italian was more optimistic about Benzema’s chances for Real Madrid’s final fixture before the World Cup, next Thursday against Cadiz.
“I don’t think Rudiger will be there but Karim yes.”
Antonio Rudiger is suffering from a muscle strain and his fitness will be a concern for the German national side. Equally, Benzema’s fitness has caused him to miss a number of games this season when it appeared he would be fit. Ancelotti was asked whether it worried him.
“The absence of Karim has allowed us to show the quality of other players like Rodrygo, Vinicius, Valverde. We have fixed the problem of his absence showing their quality, but it is clear that we will need him after the break.”
In Benzema’s absence, Brazilian forward Rodrygo Goes has been exercising in his place and to good effect. Ancelotti commented that it was a position he felt Rodrygo would end up in permanently.
“He has a great potential, more as a central forward or behind the 9 than as a winger. He is very strong in his runs, in his dribbling, in tight spaces. I see more of it there.”
Given how key Benzema was last season, it is remarkable how well Real Madrid have coped in his absence. If Benzema returns to his level of last season for the second half of the season, it may actually have helped Real Madrid to become more rounded.